LETTERS OF SAINT PHILIP NERI.

 

Letter 1. To Messer. Francesco Vai, Prato.
Letter 2. To Madonna Fiora Ragni, Naples.
Letter 3. To Sister Maria Vittoria Trievi, a Nun of S. Pietro Martire, Florence.
Letter 4. To Sister Anna Maria Trievi, a nun in S. Lucia, Florence.
Letter 5. To Saint Charles Borromeo, Milan.
Letter 6. To Madonna Fiora Ragni, Naples.
Letter 7. To Saint Charles Borromeo, Milan.
Letter 8. To Sister Anna Maria Trievi, a nun in S. Lucia, Florence.
Letter 9. To Sister Maria Trievi, a nun in S. Pietro Martire, Florence.
Letter 10. To the venerable Giovenale Ancina, Naples.
Letter 11. To the venerable Alessandro Luzzago, Brescia.
Letter 12. To Sister Anna Maria Trievi, a nun in S. Lucia, Florence.
Letter 13. To Messer. Vittorio dell' Ancisa, Florence
Letter 14. To Tiberio ... a fragment


LETTER I.
To Messer. Francesco Vai, Prato.

HE EXHORTS THIS HIS SPIRITUAL SON TO RETURN TO ROME, AND GIVES HIM SEVERAL PIECES OF ADVICE.

Jesus Maria.
I don't know whether I ought to call you “dearest,” as people generally put at the beginning of letters, considering that your love of war, or rather of keeping a whole skin, is so great as to give you the heart to absent yourself from us all, father, friends, and brothers. Good sons are wont to assist their father in his necessities with their substance, their strength, and their life. I will say nothing about that man, who, albeit, he was ignorant of Christ, gave himself up alive to redeem his father’s corpse; and I will hold my tongue about many others besides, who ought to make you ashamed of yourself, because although you profess to be spiritual, you may perhaps be taken aback by a long string of examples, and have a fit of the same fear I spoke of, regarding a whole skin; whereas by rights you ought to have paid ready money for an opportunity like this of coming, if need was, to receive the crown of martyrdom. One may see from this that you have not as yet made a start, for death is in the habit of affrighting those only who are still in their sins; but not those who, like S. Paul, have desired, and do desire, to die and be with Christ; and like Job, who lamented within himself that his days were so much prolonged, though he earnestly wished for death. Indeed, the truth is, one of the greatest crosses that can happen to a person, such as I would wish you to be, is not to die for Christ, which perchance by coming here you might do. There is no one but would be willing to stand on Mount Thabor and see Christ transfigured; but to go up to Jerusalem, and accompany Christ to Mount Calvary, few are willing. One who is a true Christian gains a knowledge of himself in the fire of tribulations; as I should not wonder you have read in the “Consolations” you got out of Frate Alessio on your journey; perhaps, too, you have shed a few poor tears, and had a shade more spirituality than usual, Christ drawing you by this sweet call to some little of His cross. Spiritual persons are wont to have first sweetness, then bitterness; lay aside then this tepidity of yours; drop the mask, take hold of the cross, and let not the cross take hold of you. Besides this, be prudent, and not troublesome to any body; take care that others may rather have of yours, than you of theirs, because a spiritual man must rather give than have; and if, as you have written me word, you have met with so much humility and benevolence, do you on your part learn to be amiable and lowly; and if the friend you praise so much has shown you hospitality nine days in Florence, for one time you have entertained him at Prato, remember that you are under an obligation to entertain him there eighty-one days. But since, to my misfortune, I have a secretary who does not let me see too much of him, and who has so little memory that he would have driven fine conceits even out of Solomon’s head, I must draw to a close, all the more as I am ill in bed visited by the Lord. Pray to God, and with this I will conclude, that I may draw fruit out of it for my soul, not forgetting at the same time to recommend me to Sister Caterina, whom you must beg to pray that I may be enabled to gain a great number of souls, and may not bury in the earth the talents I possess, whether they be five, ten, three, or one. Recommend me, too, to Messer. Giovanni Simoni, and beg him to mind and recommend me to Messer. Francesco Buon-signori, and do you recommend me to him for me when you go to Florence.

I should not wish, therefore, as I said when you went away, that you should inconvenience yourself to come here, so long as you are well both in mind and body, and can feel that you have the means of advancing, and persons to direct you. I leave it to you to decide whether you will come: I can truly say that there is nothing to fear here on account of the wars, so do not let fear make you turn back; nor anything else either. Pray to God for me, for I am ill of body, and my soul is by no means as I would have it. Simone and Lodovico, the scribes of this letter, recommend themselves to you.

Yours,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, November 6, 1556.


LETTER II.
To Madonna Flora Ragni, Naples.

HE URGES HER TO THE PRACTICE OF VIRTUE.

Although I never write to any one, I cannot help doing so to Madonna Fiora, who is like my first-born daughter, and who I am very anxious should begin to flower: and moreover that afterwards the flower may produce good fruit, the fruit of humility, patience, and all virtues, and that she may be the lodging and vessel of the Holy Spirit: as indeed is commonly the case with those who go often to communion. If this were not so I would not have you for a daughter; or if I did it would be as a hateful one, and in such sort that I should turn against you at the judgment-day. God grant this may not be, but that you may flower and bring forth fruit, as I said before, and be all on fire, so that your poor father, who is dying of cold, may be able to warm himself. No more.

Ever yours,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, June 27, 1572.


LETTER III.
To Sister Maria Vittoria Trievi, a Nun of S. Pietro Martire, Florence.

HE CONDOLES WITH HER ON HER FATHER’S DEATH, AND GIVES HER SOME SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTIONS.

Dearest Niece,
I know that the death of your respected father (may God have taken him to Himself in glory) will have caused great sorrow to his family, as well from the loss of so kindly and able a man’s guidance, as from his having left the responsibility of his property and family affairs on the shoulders of his son, who is still a very young man, and certainly not of a fit age to be master; for one must have lived long and had much experience to acquire prudence and sound judgment, so as to know how to command and steer the bark both in calm and tempest. However, have confidence in our good God (Messer. Domineddio), and he will give him virtue and wisdom enough to make up for lack of years: and then I know he has had a good education, and I believe that good Messer. Bernaba has left his affairs in very good order, and unembarrassed; so that by continuing to walk in the road pointed out to him, I do not doubt that the family will persevere in well-doing and the fear of God, and in the good management that existed in your father’s lifetime. For the reasons already mentioned, I for my part have felt much grieved at this loss, and have not failed to pray to God, and to get others to pray, for his blessed soul; neither do I ever forget, either in my sacrifices or prayers, to remember all of you, his children, and my nephews and nieces, begging of Almighty God that you may be assisted by His Divine Goodness and prudence, as regards the spirit, to the salvation of your souls, and protected, as regards the body, in your temporal affairs, according as the Lord shall see expedient for what we ought most of all to hope for and to love, namely, the glory of God by means of a good life. I need make no formal offer to you of my services, both because the relationship which exists between us puts me under an obligation to assist you, and also because I can do but very little for you in a temporal point of view, as by the grace of God I am poor, and old, and infirm; but in any way I am able I shall always willingly strive hard to help you whenever you need it, loving you, as I do, with all Christian sincerity, and being to you both by years and relationship in the place of a father. You who live in a convent are not subject to these changes and diversities of the world. I suppose, however, that according to charity, you sympathize in due moderation with your brothers and sisters; nevertheless, as you say in your letter, you receive all things as from the hand of God, conforming and resigning yourself entirely to His Divine Will; a road, in good truth, by which one cannot err, and which alone brings us to taste of and enjoy that peace which carnal and worldly men know not of. Give thanks to the Lord, for the noble and secure state of life He has called you to: if, indeed, as I trust you do, you know the value of so high a vocation. With regard to the wish you express of coming to confession to me if you were but within reach of me, believe me, my dearest niece, that you are under the direction of very good religious; and if you are but sincere, and will open your heart with simplicity to your confessor, our good God (Messer. Domineddio) will never fail to do for you all that is necessary for your spiritual profit; for God neither withholds what is necessary, nor is prodigal of what is superfluous: therefore, since you are in a place where you must necessarily pass through only one man’s hands, all that you have to do is to pray, and have an honest wish to be good, and God (Messer. Domineddio) will put Himself in the mouth of your confessor, even though he be deficient, so as not to let your faith and the preparation of your soul be cheated. Put in practice this plan of humbly recommending yourself to the Lord, before you either go to confession to or seek counsel of your prelate; put on him the person of Christ Jesus our Lord, and consider that God Himself is speaking to you; be ready to obey, and rather believe him than yourself, or those of your companions who have but little spirituality; you will then see how true are those words of the Holy Spirit, who says of the prelates and our pastors, “He who hears and obeys his superiors, hears and obeys Me; and he who despises them, despises and disobeys Me.” I am aware that you know these things already, for you were brought up in a good school; but seeing your faith, I did not like to omit saying these few words, that you may be the more confirmed in good, although I know that it was unnecessary. Sister Dionisia, who has been such a long time ill, is much to be pitied, and her desire of being cured, provided it is always made conditionally, that it so pleases God and is expedient for the salvation of her soul, may be allowed of, because in health people can do many good things, which sickness prevents them from doing. I believe indeed that the safer thing would be what God wills, and to ask him for patience in the sickness; because often when we are cured, not only do we not do the good we had proposed to do when we were ill, but we multiply sins and ingratitude, and become tender of our body and sensual; nevertheless I will pray for her with the conditions I spoke of. I recommend myself to the fervour and devotion of your novices, and the prayers of all the venerable mothers. I will not forget to make up the number of rosaries, so that you may be able to give one to each of the nuns, but then they must pray as they say them, according to my intention, that I may be enabled to do something that may please the Lord. God bless you, and your brothers and sisters too, and I desire that this letter may be communicated to them. Recommend me to them.

Your loving Uncle,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, December 8, 1575.

P.S. The beads shall be blessed, and sent by the first opportunity.


LETTER IV;
To Sister Anna Maria Trievi, a nun in S. Lucia, Florence.

HE EXHORTS HER AMONGST OTHER THINGS TO PERSEVERE IN THE SERVICE OF GOD.

Dearest Niece,
I have written to the Reverend Mother what occurs to me respecting the business she commissioned you to write to me about; and I have nothing else to tell you, except that although I have been a little unwell, nevertheless by the grace of God I am now in excellent health; indeed I was so little unwell, that I only kept my bed a week. It has been very grateful to me to learn of your advance in the service of God, for having tasted how sweet is His yoke, you not only bear it cheerfully yourself, but are also anxious that she who is dearer to you than any other, I mean your sister, should bear it also; and as you are her sister according to the flesh, you would be so also according to the spirit, desiring to live together in the service of Him, who is able to give you every blessing and every joy. This desire of yours God will satisfy, if by fervent and persevering prayer you ask it of Him, nor will I fail on my part to do the same; for she could not make a better resolution than to come to live and die with you, which would be a greater blessing than she deserves, as it was for you; and for which you must show your gratitude by increasing more and more each day in spirituality and fervour, and if you cannot do as much as this, humble yourself constantly, and abase yourself in your own sight, and that of the nuns, that you may become great in the sight of God. Recommend me to Sister Dionisia, the Reverend Mother, and the other Sisters, for whom I will not forget to pray, as I earnestly hope they may also do for me, and more especially I expect it of you, whom may the Lord our God bless and keep in His grace.

Yours,
PHILIP NERI,
Rome, October 17, 1576. 


LETTER V.
To Saint Charles Borromeo, Milan.

HE PROMISES TO ESTABLISH A CONGREGATION IN MILAN, IF IT SO PLEASES GOD.

Most illustrious and most reverend Monsignore, I have received your credentials, which were brought to me by the Abbate Agostini, relating to the affairs of S. Simone. Our Father Giovanni Paolo will be able to tell your most illustrious Lordship what we have resolved together, and if it shall be so settled there by the deputation, you will learn that we intend to come and work for the service of God in Milan, and wherever His Divine Majesty shall be pleased to call us; however, since we are not formed and established here in Rome, it did not seem consistent with prudence to take so great a step hastily. For the rest, as this is the first opportunity I have yet had of employing myself in your most illustrious Lordship’s service, let me assure you that I am at your command now and always, both heart and soul. We shall seek by prayer to have a part in the good which our Lord God (Messer. Domineddio) is doing in Milan by your hand, beseeching Him to prosper it to His honour and glory. And I humbly kiss your hand, and beg for your blessing on myself and this our little Congregation.

Your most illustrious
And most Reverend Lordship’s
Most humble Servant,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, May 13, 1578. 


LETTER VI.
To Madonna Flora Ragni, Naples.

HE CONSOLES HER IN HER ILLNESS.

My honoured sister in Christ,
I have received the little phial of the manna of S. Andrea which you sent me, and it has been dear to me as being a thing of devotion, and I thank you for it. Support yourself in your illness by conforming yourself to the will of the Lord, which He has sent you; for although you will have to suffer some pain of body, and also some mortification of the soul, in not being able to enjoy the devotions and spiritual exercises you are wont to have when you are well; nevertheless, if you strive to be patient, and to resign yourself to the will of God, you will gain so much good for your soul that you will not be sorry to have suffered so little to gain so great a reward; and may our Lord God give you the grace to do this. Pray for me, as I will do for you. And let us so live that though we cannot meet again in this life, we may meet in the other for ever, with that delight which the saints who are in Paradise are enjoying this very day. I recommend myself to you.

Your brother in Christ,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, April 15, 1580.


LETTER VII.
To S. Charles Borromeo, Milan.

HE DISABUSES HIM OF A FALSE IMPRESSION.

Most illustrious and most Reverend Lord,
Our Lord the Pope sent me yesterday a postscript written by your illustrious Lordship, from which it is evident that you are anything but satisfied with our Congregation, in consequence of a supposition on your part that two of our priests had first expressed an intention and then revoked it of going into the service of the Duke of Bavaria, and that this change of theirs was an act of disobedience to his Holiness. I have thought it well, with that Christian liberty with which you are accustomed to proceed in your affairs, to give you an account of this matter, for no other purpose but that you may have a clear statement of the truth. You must know, therefore, that those two priests, of whom the report is that they intended to enter the aforesaid service, are not men belonging to our Congregation, but are chaplains of the Company of Charity in San Girolamo, with which we have no sort of connexion; and that the two priests are such Monsignor Speziano can inform you. Moreover, your illustrious and most reverend Lordship may rest assured that in this particular the obedience due to our Lord the Pope has never been encroached upon; and this I assert positively, because I myself in person have treated of the matter with his Holiness, whom I am forced to quote to you as a witness. I therefore pray your most illustrious and most reverend Lordship to deign not to believe us capable of so much contumacy as there would have been in acting contrary to the obedience of our Lord the Pope; indeed, if such a thing were ever to happen, we should consider we had fallen into a grievous sin and error, from which we hope and pray that our Lord God will deliver us by His holy grace; and we also beg that you will deign to favour us with your prayers; and farther, that whenever an evil report reaches you, either of myself or any of us, that may deserve correction, you yourself will do us this charitable act, and we shall receive it as a most special favour. And I, together with the rest of us, humbly kiss your hands.

Your most illustrious
And most Reverend Lordship’s
Most devoted servant,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, June 15, 1581.


LETTER VIII.
To Sister Anna Maria Trievi, a nun in S. Lucia, Florence.

HE GIVES HER MANY SPIRITUAL MAXIMS, AND ESPECIALLY ON THE SUBJECT OF DETACHMENT, MORTIFICATION, AND CHARITY.

Sister Anna, my dearest daughter in Christ. Your letter has made me marvel much, that in the fifteen years you have worn the holy habit of religion, you have not yet given up self; a thing you ought already to have attained to when first you were clothed; for in leaving home, relations, and friends, and shutting yourself up, as dead to the world, within a tomb inclosed by four walls, in changing your name and laying aside your own will, your own opinions and understanding, in resigning yourself into the hands of God, and for the love of God into the hands of the prelate and the reverend mother, you should already have been dead and buried to all creatures and to self. Nevertheless, this first step that in our hearts we wish to make, is the last to be put in practice: so strongly is this skin of self-love fastened over our heart, and so teasing and painful is it to strip it off; and the nearer we get to the quick, the more sensitive to pain and difficult to remove it becomes. We read in Job, “Skin for skin, and all that a man hath shall he give for his soul,” and let us now explain this as follows, so as to suit our purpose: all skins, that is, all exterior things, (for the skin is that which we see uppermost of the substance of our body, and which as a thin veil covers our flesh and bones), all things therefore of this world men must leave for the spiritual life; for the soul in this place means the corporal life, and let you and I understand by it a virtuous life, which a person spends in the mortification of vices, and sins, and bad thoughts, and wrong affections, and in exercising himself in the acquisition of holy virtues.

Now consider, my daughter, how many wretched skins the soul has, which it is necessary to cut away from us by the roots with the knife of holy discipline. The mole is a blind animal, which always lives in the earth; it eats earth and burrows in the earth, and is never satiated with earth. This is a true picture of an avaricious man or woman; women are by nature avaricious. Avarice is a wretched thing: it is because of it that a man, who has had so much from God, who, besides his being, and all other created things from the Angel downwards, has given him His own Son; and the sweet Christ, the Word Incarnate, has given Himself to us to suffer all that was necessary for us, even to the cruel and shameful death of the cross, and afterwards left Himself in the Sacrament, and first He left heaven, humbling Himself to be come man for us; and He was stripped on the cross; and He shed His blood, and His soul was separated from His body; and all created things are generous, and show the goodness of the Creator; the sun sheds light, the fire heat, every tree extends its arms, which are its boughs, and yields us the fruit which it produces, and the water and the air, and all nature shows forth the liberality of the Creator:- It is because of avarice, I say, that we who are His living image do not represent Him, but by degenerate habits deny Him in our works, although with our mouth we confess Him. But if avarice is a monstrous thing in any man, what shall we think of it in a religious man or woman, who has made a vow of poverty, and deprived himself of all things for the love of God? Now a person must strip himself of this filthy skin, painful though such a stripping may seem to be; and we shall not feel the pain, if we seriously consider, that so soon as we are stripped of the foul covering, we are clothed with a royal and imperial garment, namely with the virtue opposite to avarice, and which we call liberality, by which I not only mean that we are to despise gold, and silver, and pleasures, and all that is vainly and ignorantly prized by the blind and beguiled world, but that we are to give our life itself, which we love so much, for the honour of God, and for the salvation of our neighbours, keeping our hearts so prepared as to be able to make this sacrifice by the help of the Divine grace; and for this end that we are to be constantly overcoming ourselves in our words, humbling ourselves in heart and body to all, and reputing ourselves vile, and like the rag with which they clean the muddy wooden shoes of the nuns, or a dirty kitchen cloth, and desiring to be thought and spoken of as such. Now this is just what I want of you: you, who are willing to give yourself up to God, whether for life or death, and who, while seeking after virtue with all your heart, and asking it unceasingly in prayer to God, and mortifying yourself day by day, and forcing yourself to serve every one with humility and subjection both of body and soul, have so lost the favour of all your sisters and your confessor, that you are considered the most useless, negligent, tepid, and vain sister in the convent; and I will not say that the nuns and your superiors have made a show of thinking thus of you, in order to your trial and mortification, but rather that it has been permitted by God that you should be so esteemed, and that you should be driven from the society of the other nuns, like a diseased beast, and seized and kept in prison, as happened to your father S. Peter Martyr, who was considered an infamous person, and was driven away and banished, because he had been visited by the most holy Madonna in his room, Virgin, Saint, and modest youth as he was; and nevertheless God permitted the affair to be taken contrariwise, and that he should lose his reputation in consequence of it; and as it happened also to the holy mother, the Blessed Catherine of Sienna, who was defamed by that sick woman whom she was attending, and who spread a scandalous story concerning her through the convent; it was, however, the will of God that she should pass over these hard rocks in order that she might mortify herself, and might appear, as she really was, indifferent to her honour and worldly reputation, and because the eye of her Spouse, whom she served, and the testimony of a good conscience was sufficient for her; although in her prayers she complained to the Lord, and was reproved for it with those two crowns which her sweet Spouse showed her, the one of thorns and the other of gold, as you may read in her Life and Legend.

What I say of the skin of avarice, I say of all the others with which the heart is clothed and re-clothed, for it has more skins of vices and evil habits and bad ways, than a cat has skins, or I should rather say, though this is still very short of the mark, than an onion has coats; and do you know how those coats dry and harden? just in the same way that a skin is dried, which you expose to the air in the winter, and when the north wind and the mountain blast blows, you let it remain on the house-top, and in the draught of the window. Judge from this, whether in order to leave oneself it is sufficient to do it with a transitory thought, which flies through our mind once a year; or whether we need fire and sword, and to be severe against ourself, and to be constantly clipping with scissors, and cutting with a razor those subtle threads which spring from our flesh: because if we do not stand with diligence at the looking-glass of mental prayer, observing how they arise, and cut them away, and if without examination of conscience we pass negligently on, they will come to increase in length and breadth, and become old trees with fangs and roots so deeply set, that it is no longer possible to pluck them up; but it is necessary to cut them, and then dig about them and remove the earth until we come down to the bottom where they had taken root and laid such fast hold of the ground; whereas, if when they first sprang up and made their appearance they had been rooted up, you might have pulled them out of the ground with two fingers. I should not wish to frighten you, and make you despair of the undertaking; but I was anxious to set everything before you, in order to point out to you that of yourself you will do nothing, because to conquer yourself you have need of greater strength than you can apply single-handed. You need the strength of God’s grace, and the prayers of your spiritual father and the reverend mother, together with those of all the other sisters, and must recommend yourself from your heart in chapter to the prayers of all, that they may assist you; in confession recommend yourself heartily and very humbly to your confessor, that he may pray for you, and offer you in prayer to the Lord. Then, too, fall in love with holy obedience, and put it before everything else; and do not appropriate anything to yourself which has not been given to you signed and sealed with the blessing of the superior and superioress; and together with holy obedience love prayer, but remember with regard to prayer and communion that you are to desire them as much as it is possible to love and desire them, but to be prepared to give up both one and the other through obedience; and preserve holy obedience by means of true prayer and this communion as the Lord intends; for we are not to pray and go to communion or desire to do so, for the sake of that sweet affection and devotion, which you experience in it, for in this you will seek yourself and not God, but we are to frequent both one and the other in order to become humble and obedient, gentle and patient: and when you discover these things in yourself, then you will gather the fruit of prayer and communion, and above all, you will live in peace with all your sisters. For if the devil finds union and peace in a convent, he fears this order more than all the other exercises of the spiritual life when apart from this bond, and separate from fraternal love, which ought to guide and hold fast with charity the souls of the sisters of a good convent. And this I will show you by an example: if there was a great army of many armed men, and they were to come and fight with another army of brave soldiers, and the first army was to be divided among themselves, and one soldier to fight with another of the same army; do you not see how easily they would be conquered by their enemies, whilst one fights against another, and disobeys his captain, and colonel, and general: but if they were at peace one with another, and were to fight altogether against their adversaries, do you not perceive that they would then be much stronger, and a terror to their enemies, and likely to gain the victory? The devil, therefore, our enemy, who is continually at war with us, and striving to overcome us, seeks to disunite us, and bring about strifes, hatred and contentions, emulations and factions among us, and especially in convents; because, while we are fighting one with another, he steps in securely to conquer us, to make us his prisoners, to kill us, to put us to flight: whilst on the other hand, union and peace is the strongest safeguard, and that which the enemy most fears, since God reigns in the midst of religious who are united and at peace; and with such a Commander who can be lost? Take delight in the community life, avoid all singularity, give heed to purity of heart; for the Holy Spirit abides in candid and simple souls, and He is the master of prayer, and makes us dwell in constant peace and joy, which is a foretaste of Paradise; just as anger and discord continuing with a soul full of bitterness is a type of hell. May God give you grace so to concentrate yourself in His divine love, and so to enter by the wound of the Side into the living Fountain of the Wisdom of God made man, that you may deny yourself and your own love, and may never find a road by which you can go out from It: and from within that wound remember me, and pray for me, a wretched and unhappy sinner.

Your father in Christ,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, August 30, 1585.


LETTER IX.
To Sister Maria Trievi, a nun in S. Pietro Martire, Florence.

HE SHOWS HER WHAT A BLESSING GOD HAS GIVEN HER IN HER VOCATION TO RELIGION, AND MAKES MANY SALUTARY SUGGESTIONS TO HER.

Sister Maria Vittoria, my dearest daughter in the Lord,
I have been thinking of your name and the day that your letter was given to me: and I remembered that it was the same day on which in the year 1531 a great naval victory was by the grace of God gained against the Turks by our fleet. Your name is Maria, and the gathering together of the waters (those great reservoirs whence the rivers are supplied, and to which they return) are called in the holy scriptures in Latin, “Mària,” which is a little shorter than saying Marìa. Maria is that wonderful Virgin, that glorious Lady, who conceived in her womb and brought forth without prejudice to her Virginity, Him whom the whole expanse of Heaven cannot contain within itself, Christ the Son of God and of Mary. This holy Mother of God is called the Star of the Sea (Mare); wherefore I conclude that not without great mystery was this name given you, because in leaving the world you were lifted by the hand of God from out of the waters of that sea, in crossing which so vast a number of miserable souls perish, and so few comparatively are saved: and you, like another Peter, have been taken by the hand and firmly held, so that you have walked not through the waters, but on them. Those holy fathers of the Old Testament walked through the midst of the waters, and were not drowned. You know how the Red Sea divided, and the river Jordan, and how by the grace of God the people passed uninjured through the midst of the waters; but the Christian church, having loftier privileges than the synagogue, walks upon the waves of the sea without so much as wetting her feet, and is secure in her faith, following in the footsteps of her lawful Spouse and Guide. The walking of those ancient Patriarchs through the midst of the water signifies that possessing riches, and having wives and children, they walked without soiling their affections with those things although they possessed them, because they only took the use of them, and were prepared to leave them in whatever way the Majesty of God might require them again at their hands; just as did Abraham, who went forth from his house and left his property, his friends, and his relations, and at the word of God wandered a pilgrim upon the face of the earth. Job had wives and sons and daughters together with vast possessions, but he distributed them as a good minister of the providence of God, and brought up his children virtuously, considering them rather as the children of God than his own, and life and health and whatever he had, he looked upon as a loan from God, and in his prudence he saw that these things do not remain with us for ever, but that we either leave them before we die, or else that anyhow at death we infallibly return naked to the earth, whence we sprung. Wherefore when God permitted the devil to tempt him, Job was not at all disquieted, because he had foreseen everything, and awaited the coming of that day, armed with faith and patience; and he said, “If we have enjoyed these blessings for a while, which God has provided us with, why shall we not receive from the same hand poverty and tribulation, which are sent for a proof of our fidelity and virtue, in order to enrich us hereafter with truer and more lasting riches in Heaven?” David also, although he was a king, used to say he was poor and needy; but Saint Peter and the other apostles, and apostolic men after them, and all that primitive church in Jerusalem, when they saw the Son of God born poor, and live without anything of his own, so that he had not even where to lay his head, and when they contemplated Him dead and naked on a cross, they too stripped themselves of everything, not wishing for more than might suffice to cover them decently and maintain them miserably in extreme necessity; and they embraced the path of the evangelical counsels, as at the present day by the grace of God do all religious men and women, who keep alive in themselves the image and example of that most wonderful foundation of Christian perfection, and have deprived themselves not only of the possession of property and everything else that they might have kept with a good conscience, but also of their own opinion, and judgment, and will, in order that they may have a perfect victory over themselves, and that the kingdom of Christ may come to reign in their soul with His grace and charity, and that the devil may be put to flight and reign no more by means of sin. Now, my daughter, you have approached with your boat to the shore of the Land of Promise, to that blessed country promised to the elect of God, in which good religious will have so high a place that they will be in the choir of the exalted hierarchy with the Thrones; for those most happy spirits are called the seats of God: and when S. Peter asked Christ what reward they should receive for having left all things and followed him, He answered that they should sit upon twelve seats with Him in that day, when He should judge the world. The religious, therefore, having left all and followed Christ, who has said that everyone who leaves his property and follows Him shall be raised to that throne, we must conclude that at that great spectacle when the world shall be consumed with fire, and the trumpets of the Angels shall sound, and when Lucifer with all the other demons and the damned shall fall into hell, that then, secure amidst these ruins and miseries, good religious both men and women, who shall be observant of their vows and rules, will be clothed with glory, and will triumph under the wings of the protection of  Jesus Christ; and that carnal and worldly men will say with confusion of face: “See, those are they whom we despised, and we laughed at them, and thought them unhappy and foolish persons; but now they are with the Angels on lofty thrones and seats of glory, and we fools and madmen are burning everlastingly in the unextinguishable fire of the abyss of hell!” Now since, my dearest daughter in Christ, you are within reach of so much happiness, do not turn back, do not strike your oar against the ground, do not get too near the shore, do not return in thought and affection to the world; for the world is a wood, in which travellers are robbed and murdered; or a forest full of wild beasts; and a plain full of soldiers, full of rapine, and violence, and injustice (speaking always with due respect and reserve of the good, of whom there are some, but few;) or I would have you regard this world as a house set on fire from which you have scarcely escaped, being moreover soiled by the smoke and scorched by the flames, so that you no longer have the courage to go near it, because it either soils or burns; but keeping away from occasions of falling, and attaching yourself to good practices, a lover of your cell and of choir and of prayer, and, above all, of obedience and holy poverty seek to have the victory. Since you have quitted the Sea, that is to say, the world, unquiet and tempestuous as it is, and the love of the things you have left in the world, forget father, mother, brothers, and sisters, friends, relations, houses, and vineyards, and everything besides. And that this may not seem to be said against Christian piety, you have the authority of Holy Scripture, which says the same, and it is the Holy Spirit in the Psalms who speaks thus: Listen, daughter, and from my words receive light and the brightness of grace: and then by this light look around, and when you see the good and peaceful land which is shown you, call to mind that other land, full of weariness, and which only brings forth briars and thorns, and forget your country and your father’s house; but incline the ear of obedience to my words, and put your shoulders to the cross of true mortification, both exterior and interior, crucifying all evil ways, and bad thoughts, and false loves; and place your faith, your hopes, and all your affection upon me, and so will I receive you for my Spouse, and will be enamoured of your modesty and humility, and will make you partaker of the viands of my table which I am accustomed to give to those who serve and love me faithfully, and which consist of temptations which I permit, and tribulations which in the beginning will seem bitter to you, but will afterwards be sweet, when you shall have accustomed your taste to them; and you will know that this road, which I take with one I love, is a true espousal betwixt the soul and me; wherefore since I have espoused you, you shall say with Saint Agnes, when tribulation comes upon you, “My Lord Jesus Christ has pledged me with His ring,” and by suffering with patience and joy, you will worthily bear the name of Maria Vittoria. But it is not sufficient for you, daughter, to have come out of the sea, unless together with the body you have also left with the soul every worldly hope and affection: for those Hebrews, who passed through the desert after Captain Moses, although they had the Red Sea between Egypt and themselves, remembered, not withstanding, the flesh which they used to eat to the full; and in thought and affection they went across the sea amongst the thick darkness of Egypt, which figures a man’s ignorance of his happy lot, and the benefits he has received and is continually receiving, and those still greater blessings which the mercy of God has prepared in the blessed life to come; if you do not think upon this, love is not nourished, but becomes cold; nor is it enough unless we learn here to give God praise, which hereafter will be our employment for ever in heaven; and think not that it will be wearisome to say for ever with the angels and all the other blessed, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.” But from a superabundance of such felicity as we have, which from eternity God has prepared for us, that we may enjoy Him for ever, having the vision and possession together with the fruition of Him, and not being able to satisfy ourselves with that satiety, because our appetite and hunger ever increase in proportion to the abundance and plenty of such great felicity as is communicated to us,- and out of that abundance, I say, our heart, and mouth, and voice, and all our powers and faculties are forced to cry out, “Benedictus et Sanctus in Saecula Saeculorum, Amen.” But in your mental prayers you must remember those who neither by boat nor by bridge are passing over this dangerous sea, but are fording it; and you ought to recommend them to the powerful and pitiful Hand that succours you, and to have the greatest compassion for them, and put them within your heart, just as they say that amongst other properties the pelican does when it wants to feed; for standing by the sea-shore it swallows some of those shells which pilgrims wear on their heads, and which are shut together like hard stones, and within them is the oyster and the tellina, and the warmth of the stomach cooks them, and they relax their firm hold of the shell, which gradually opens; the pelican then vomits these shells, and so is nourished with the flesh of the oyster, which was at first so firmly inclosed. Do you place these hard and obstinate sinners in your heart, and cry to God in your charity, and take some discipline for them, after you have asked leave to do so; and God will send them compunction, and will open their hearts to the light of grace, and you will obtain such a liking for this exercise, and will burn with such zeal for the conversion of souls, that you will melt into tears of sweetness, while you think upon the joy there is in heaven to God and the angels in the conversion of a sinner; and you will so increase in charity and merit, and those souls converted by your prayers will be your glory and your crown, not that you have been the most powerful cause of their conversion but God, who will give the fruit to you, reserving the honour only to Himself, although He has been the principal Author of their conversion. Keep in good health, and in the grace of God.

Yours,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, October 11, 1585. 


LETTER X.
To the venerable Giovenale Ancina, Naples.

HE THANKS HIM FOR REMEMBERING HIM IN THE HOLY MASS, AND TREATS OF DIFFERENT AFFAIRS.

Reverend Father, and my honoured and most dear friend in the Lord,
It is a source of great pleasure to me that you remember me in the holy unbloody sacrifices, which is a powerful means of persuading the Most Omnipotent Father to grant us his grace and mercy, of which we stand very greatly in need by reason of the vanity of our works, if they be not found upon this base. Wherefore, if you will continue this good and holy work, my joy will likewise increase at receiving such assistance; and as to your present remembrance of me, I thank you for it; and as the ship which has a sufficient depth of water sails more securely through it as it ploughs its way along, so also I am persuaded that by the sacrifices and prayers of a number of persons I shall arrive more happily and easily at the port of life eternal, when it shall please the Lord to call me. I am glad too that you are in the habit of dividing the celebration of the most holy mass amongst chosen persons, such as Cardinal Albano, Messer. Adriano, and Messer. Niccolò Leopardi, and I praise your charity, which according as it is extended and dilated is so much the more pleasing to the Lord. It seems to me, however, that it would be well to beseech the Lord to give a good confessor to the convent of S. Martha, so that the labours of Messer. Adriano may receive increase from the virtue of him who is to succeed to that office, because much of the Lord’s honour consists in His having persons who love Him in truth. Messer. Giovanni Matteo has read the piece of poetry you wrote me about Lucilla, and the said Giovanni Matteo is quite perplexed. She will tell him that you wrote it, and may keep the thing back, so as to bring it to an end, and especially since many impediments may arise every day. My opinion is that he will despatch the business according to your desire. I salute all the fathers and brothers there, beseeching the Lord to keep them all in His holy grace.

Yours always in the Lord,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, May 10, 1591.


LETTER XI.
To the venerable Alessandro Luzzago, Brescia.

HE PROMISES TO RECOMMEND HIM TO THE LORD, ACCORDING TO HIS REQUEST.

My very illustrious and honourable Lord,
The humble opinion of yourself which has induced your very illustrious Lordship to write me a letter of such confidence as you have done, puts me under an obligation to answer you by deeds, rather than by letters or words; but inasmuch as I have not corresponded to the calls and graces of our Lord God as freely and with as much fruit as was due, I feel myself so inferior to the good opinion and conceit in which you hold me, that it renders me incapable of satisfying you in what with much humility you ask of me for yourself and others. Nevertheless, as it is a matter in which we have to deal with One of such perfection as that He not only can make good our imperfections, but can in a moment of an imperfect creature make it perfect in many degrees, for this is the nature of our God, I accept the burden you impose upon me, and will oblige myself, as I have always done since I knew you in Rome, to remember both you and your spiritual wants, which, by the abundant light of the goodness and purity God has granted you, you perceive in yourself and in behalf of those souls whom you have recommended to me with so much charity and affection. And in doing this I will beseech our Lord God to look rather upon the exceeding humility and faith of those recommended, than upon the person through whom they are recommended, and begging for you from our Lord an increase of his graces, I am always with much affection at the service of your Lordship, and remain

Your most illustrious Lordship’s
Servant in the Lord,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, October 26, 1591. 


LETTER XII.
To Sister Anna Maria Trievi, a nun in S. Lucia, Florence.

HE PROMISES TO PROCURE AN INDULGENCE FOR HER, AND TEACHES HER NOW TO ACQUIRE THE LOVE OF GOD.

My honoured Niece,
I have received your letter, in which you ask me to obtain a plenary indulgence for you for All Souls Day, which I should be very glad to do for you; but I must know whether you have any other in your church; and if you have whether it is a Plenary indulgence, or one of a certain number of years and quarantaines, and upon what day it is, and in case there is no other indulgence, whether you are satisfied to have it for the Feast of All Saints, beginning with the vigil and lasting until sunset, because His Holiness will perhaps grant it more willingly for that feast than for All Souls Day: however, send me an answer, and I will try to meet your wishes.

To acquire the love of God, there is no truer and shorter way than to detach ourselves from the things of the world, even small and trifling things, and from self-love, rather loving in ourselves the will and service of God, than our own satisfaction and will. Pray to God for me, and salute my sister, and Sister Maria Francesca, and may our Lord God give you His holy benediction.

Your Uncle,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, April 29, 1594. 


LETTER XIII.
To Messer Vittorio dell’ Ancisa, Florence.

HE ASSURES HIM THAT HE WILL RECOMMEND HIM TO THE LORD, AND BEGS HIM TO DO THE SAME FOR HIM IN RETURN.

Very Reverend, and honoured brother in the Lord,
The circumstance that has induced you to write to me concerning the arrival of the Signori Cambini and Salviati has been the source of much pleasure to me, as well on account of what you tell me of yourself, and of the service you are doing for our Lord God, and the souls belonging to your church, as from your news of those Signori, who gave me much consolation and edification, for I discovered in them much goodness of heart, accompanied with other qualities befitting Christian gentlemen.

I will not cease, since such is your wish, to recommend you to our Lord God, and to beseech Him to give you each day more strength and virtue, to enable you to bear the burdens which He is pleased to allow to be laid on your shoulders; and this I earnestly desire, both for the sake of your country, towards whose spiritual benefit every exertion of yours is turned, and for the satisfaction of the most illustrious Lord Cardinal, who stands greatly in need of ministers in so extensive a cure, and also for the honour of His Divine Majesty, who I trust will cause His grace to abound upon you. I in my turn beseech you to do the same for me, feeling as I do so much the greater need of prayers, as my death draws nigh, and I know not that I have done any good; begging you to avail yourself of my services whenever I can be of use to you, I salute you with Christian and loving affection.

Your brother in the Lord,
PHILIP NERI.
Rome, April 7, 1595. 


LETTER XIV. A FRAGMENT.
To Tiberio ........

HE EXHORTS HIM NOT TO LEAVE THE CONGREGATION.

I wished you, Germanico, to have gone away a good deal later, in order that there also you might have remained a while longer without being perplexed between flesh and blood, between the love of mother and brothers, having the example of Saints Marco and Marcelliano, who, after they had had strength for so many martyrdoms, moved at last by father, mother, and children, were near denying Christ, if S. Sebastian had not strengthened them with his holy words. As to your alleging the great expense, I know not how, in Bologna or wherever else you go to study, you will contrive not to spend much more. And as to health, I do not see how you will be able to go through with the law, seeing that as soon as you set to work at literary pursuits you did ... so that according to my poor judgment you will do miracles, especially in a study so laborious. Your wish to assist your family in their affairs, is a wish to return to the world and leave Christ, whom when you had borne a little while, you would say, “How good and sweet the Lord is. Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.” What great thing will it be that you should be able to ... for notwithstanding that your brothers may be good-natured, especially when you shall see them spending the money, and yourself toiling hard ... “Verum dimissis omnibus,” if you lose your spirit, instead of showing yourself liberal, you will be extremely avaricious, and good reason too when ... what with relations and property, you will be very sensual the same melancholy to such a pitch, that it may be God’s will, I pray it may not be so, that your mother will die shortly after having taken you from the path of God. You know well, my Tiberio, the trouble which you had in being received into the house, and at last for the sake of your soul, and your perseverance, and because of the good disposition you showed in every respect, and your other qualities, particularly those of learning and wealth, we were ... Now it lies with you to decide whether you will remain where you are or return to us, for we do not want persons here by force I tell you, however, that Paulo Camille should put you to shame, “et haec sufficient.” The long and short of it is, without Christ you can never have any good thing which is really good.


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